To Buyers, Mortgage Rates May Be Overrated?

Changes in down payment requirements have more influence over home buyers’ willingness to buy than changes in mortgage rates, according to a new study published by economists at the New York Federal Reserve.

The Fed’s survey of buyers and renters found that the impact of interest rates may be overrated compared to the even the smallest changes in down payment requirements. The study found that dropping the required down payment from 20 percent to 5 percent increases the willingness to purchase, on average, by 15 percent among buyers and 40 percent among renters.

On the other hand, decreasing the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage raised the willingness to purchase a home by only 5 percent, on average. Buyers showed more influence by down payment changes even though the mortgage rate change could save them more money than the lower down payment.

Source: “Down Payments Motivate Buyers More Than Interest Rates,” Real Estate Economy Watch (July 20, 2015)

U.S. Household Wealth “Regains Peak”

Federal Reserve research shows that surging stock prices and steady home appreciation have finally allowed Americans to recover the $16 trillion in wealth they lost during the Great Recession. The gains are helping to bolster the U.S. economy and could lead to additional spending and growth.

Most of the recovered wealth has come from higher stock prices that have been flowing mainly to wealthier Americans. By comparison, the middle class derives the bulk of its wealth in the form of home equity, which has risen much less.

According to the Fed, household wealth totaled $66.1 trillion as of Dec. 31 — 98 percent of the pre-recession peak. Further increases in stock and home prices this year mean that Americans’ net worth has since topped the pre-recession peak of $67.4 trillion, private economists report.

Source: “US Household Wealth Regains Pre-Recession Peak,” Associated Press (March 8, 2013)